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March 15, 2010

SIU Med School Offers “Open Access” for Colon Cancer Screenings

“Open access” scheduling for colon cancer screening is now available at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.  Five physicians in SIU’s gastroenterology (GI) division are providing the service to encourage more people to be checked for the cancer.

“Screening for colon cancer can prevent the majority of deaths due to the disease.  So our division is doing this to increase opportunities for individuals to be tested since they can skip the one or two doctor’s visits and be scheduled for the screening colonoscopy,” says Dr. Russell Yang, professor and chief of gastroenterology at SIU School of Medicine and a member of the SimmonsCooper Cancer Institute at SIU.

For SIU’s direct open access program, healthy individuals age 50 or older who are in good health with good blood pressure levels and no diagnosis of diabetes can be scheduled for the procedure without first seeing a primary care physician or GI specialist.  A colonoscopy is an outpatient test where one’s colon is examined for precancerous growths, including small polyps, using a narrow, flexible instrument.  It is considered the ‘gold standard’ for screening.

The procedure will be performed by SIU GI specialists and scheduled at either hospital in Springfield – Memorial Medical Center or St. John’s Hospital.  Results of the screening will be provided after the procedure and shared with a patient’s primary care physician.

The other faculty physicians in SIU’s GI division are Dr. Jatinder Ahluwalia, Dr. Howard Chodash, Dr. Mei Chris Huang and Dr. Stuart Torgerson.

“While some are reluctant to get a colonoscopy, we hope the convenience provided with this process will mean that more people will sign up so we can do more to prevent colon cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in this country,” Yang added.

Colorectal cancer can develop with no symptoms.  Risk factors include a history of polyps in the colon in an individual or family members, inflammatory bowel disease and age.

For more information and to request an appointment, call SIU’s gastroenterology division at 217-545-0173 weekdays.  Most insurance companies will pay for screening tests.

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